NEW YORK, N.Y. – SEPTEMBER 23, 2015 – The New York Liberty will open the WNBA Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Fever on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden at 7 p.m.
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ALL-TIME: Indiana leads, 39-22
ALL-TIME PLAYOFFS: Indiana leads, 6-5
2015 SEASON: Indiana, 4-1
LAST MEETING: IND 81, NYL 76 (September 13, 2015)
The Liberty was able to hold off the Washington Mystics and 79-74 and take game three of its East semifinal series on Tuesday, setting up a showdown with a Fever team that is making its fifth-straight appearance in the conference finals.
That stretch began just after New York’s last appearance, which came in 2010. The Liberty and Fever are meeting in the playoffs for the fifth time overall and first since 2011. Indiana leads the all-time playoff series 6-5, but the franchises have split the four playoff series, all of which came in the East semifinals.
During the regular season, Indiana was able to take 4-of-5 meetings, including four in a row, but is making its first trip to Madison Square Garden since back on June 19.
New York led the league in points allowed, holding opponents to 71.1 ppg this year, but the Fever found more success than anyone else, scoring 80.8 ppg against the Liberty. Still, several of the regular season games came down to the wire. The regular season finale saw the Liberty leading by seven in the fourth before Indiana came back to steal an 81-76 win.
A few weeks earlier, a back-and-forth game that ended in an 80-79 Indiana victory saw New York have a chance to win, but Epiphanny Prince’s last second shot attempt drew back iron.
Based on the regular season matchups, keys for New York will be protecting the basketball, and limiting easy baskets. New York turned it over 16.8 times per game against the Fever, but is coming off back-to-back games where it committed a season low eight turnovers.
The Fever shot a blistering 42.2 percent from the 3-point line against New York, with better than seven 3-pointers per game, but head coach Bill Laimbeer is concerned more about the ability to get to the basket and see Liberty players get in foul trouble.
Indiana attempted close to 25 free throws per game against New York, shooting 85.0 percent at the line, making the free-throw line disparity close to five points per game for the Fever, a big boost in a one or two possession game.
For New York, Tina Charles has scored 22 points in all three playoff games this year, and the bench has really provided a spark, outscoring the starters 40-39 in the closeout win over Washington. Sugar Rodgers finished with 20, Candice Wiggins nailed four 3-pointer to score 12 and Kiah Stokes registered eight points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
BACK TO BACK
This will be the sixth time this season the Liberty has played in a back-to-back situation and during the regular season New York posted a 3-2 record in its second contest in as many days. Only one of those scenarios came with consecutive home games and it was on July 15-16 against San Antonio and Connecticut. The Liberty was able to top Connecticut 64-57 to complete the two-day sweep. This will be the first playoff back-to-back for New York since the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals against the Detroit Shock on Sept. 28-29.
NEW YORK ERASES LARGEST DEFICIT OF THE SEASON
The Liberty was able to come back from a 25-13 deficit against the Washington Mystics in game three of the series, the largest point total overcome for a win this season. There was just one other time all season the Liberty managed to come back from a double-digit deficit and win, that came against the Atlanta Dream on Sept. 1, when New York trailed 55-45 but was able to pick up an 80-75 victory in overtime. New York is 2-9 this year when falling behind by at least 10 points.
NEW YORK VS. INDIANA REGULAR SEASON NOTES
- Indiana won the regular season series with New York 4-1, taking the last four meetings of the season.
- The Liberty won 86-79 back on June 9. Tina Charles scored 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting in that game and New York capitalized on 16 Indiana turnovers to score 24 points.
- New York held opponents to a league-best 71.1 ppg in the regular season, but Indiana averaged 80.0 ppg against the Liberty, the best for any of the seven playoff teams.
- The Liberty has been relatively successful at containing Tamika Catchings. In five meetings against New York this season, Catchings is averaging just 9.6 ppg and shooting .224 from the field.
- Both Tina Charles and Epiphanny Prince were below their season scoring averages against the Fever, with Charles averaging 14.8 ppg and Prince 12.8 ppg.
- New York struggled to stop the 3-point shot in its series against Washington, and Indiana poses the same challenge. During the regular season against New York, the Fever shot 38-for-90 (.422) from 3-point range and averaged 7.6 3-pointers per game.
All-Star Tina Charles has led the Liberty into the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2010, and she did so by dropping 22 points in three-straight games. Charles has imposed her will on opposing defenses all season long, but has seemed determined to carry the Liberty so far in the playoffs.
- In three games she is shooting 29-of-70 (.414) and playing more than 38 minutes a game.
- Her 22.0 ppg ranks fourth in the WNBA for this year’s playoffs.
- Postseason success is not foreign to Charles, who in 10-career playoff games is averaging 18.4 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.
- Her 66 points in the Washington series are a new Liberty playoff record, breaking the old series point total mark of 59, set by Tamika Whitmore in 2002 against the Indiana Fever.
RODGERS SETS LIBERTY PLAYOFF FREE THROW MARK
Sugar Rodgers came off the bench to pour in 20 points in New York’s 79-74 closeout win over the Washington Mystics on Sept. 22. A large chunk of her scoring came at the free throw line, where she was a perfect 10-for-10. The 10 made free throws set a Liberty playoff record, breaking the previous all-time best mark of eight, held by Vickie Johnson (2001) and Cappie Pondexter (2012).
DUE FOR A BREAKOUT
After her record-breaking 26-point performance in game one against the Mystics, Epiphanny Prince has been looking for her shot. She scored seven points in the first 94 seconds in game two against Washington, completing a pair of and-one plays, but since then has hit just three field goals over the last 78:26 of game time. Prince shot 3-of-13 in game two against the Mystics and 2-of-12 in game three, (5-of-25 combined). However, she still ranks second on the team averaging 14.7 ppg so far in this year’s playoffs.